Indiana Basketball: The Fall of Kelvin Sampson

Christopher MeeceCorrespondent IFebruary 13, 2008

This morning Indiana University announced that the NCAA sent them five major rule
infractions in addition to what IU's own investigation found last fall. 

The allegations include that:

  • Head Coach Kelvin Sampson knowingly participated in three-way phone calls with Assistant Coach Rob Senderoff and prospects Yancey Gates, William Buford, Dejuan Blair, Demetri McCamey, Ayodele Coker and Devin Ebanks. He also participated in speakerphone calls with Senderoff and recruit Marcus Morris.

  • Sampson was present during one or more recruiting calls placed by Senderoff to prospect Kenny Frease in which Senderoff made phone calls to the student-athlete, then handed the phone to Sampson. Sampson also spoke with the mother of prospect Bud Mackey via Senderoff's cell phone while Senderoff was with Mackey's mother.

  • Records showed Senderoff also used his home phone for impermissible recruiting calls on a number of occasions despite Senderoff telling investigators that he had not used his home phone for recruiting calls. In actuality, Senderoff placed at least 30 phone calls that were violations from his home phone.

  • Sampson and Assistant Coach Jeff Meyer impermissibly recruited Derek Elston during a two-day sports camp June 30 and July 1, 2007. During that event, Meyer told Elston's high school coach, Travis Daugherty, that Elston would be receiving a scholarship offer from Indiana in the near future. Elston, however, had not completed his activities in the camp, which made contact with him impermissible, and Elston returned to camp activities the following day. It was during this contact that Elston received the t-shirt and backpack in violation of NCAA rules.

The last accusation (and make no mistake about it, the most important) deals with Sampson lying to IU and the NCAA saying he did not know that he was on the three-way calls.
Indiana has not had a major violation in 48 years.

You can view those four bullet points however you wish, but the bottom line is that they are your garden variety slap-on-the-wrist infractions.  When the coach begins lying to the University and the NCAA, however, he has entered into scary territory and he probably won't make it back.

I have had the pleasure to meet the last three Hoosier coaches (Knight, Davis, and Sampson), and I liked Sampson the most.  He is a very humble and soft-spoken man.  He values hard work and toughness and he insists those characteristics be absorbed by his teams. 

When IU announced last fall that he and his staff violated the sanctions from his tenure at Oklahoma, I was stunned.

How could he have been so careless?  I know that this is cheating, but these calls garner no advantage.  These infractions are sloppy, and they give the impression that no one is in control.

The tail end of the Knight era and all of the Mike Davis tenure was mired in mediocrity not seen in the program since the 60's.  When Sampson was hired in 2006, it was a head-scratcher to some, but Sampson's career numbers were incredible.  He was a 20+ win per season machine.

Through recruiting and the installation of his system Sampson has returned Indiana to the elite.  But at what cost?  He will most likely be fired, and there is no way to guarantee that this team stays together after he's gone. Not to mention the looming actions of a grumpy NCAA.
IU Athletic Director Rick Greenspan might not survive this either.

He hired Sampson knowing that he was bringing the phone call violation baggage with him.  Greenspan's dismissal could be the real tragedy, he was the one who brought in Terry Hoeppner to transform the barely-breathing IU football program. 

As most know, Hoeppner didn't survive his battle with cancer, but the IU football program continued in the right direction, making a bowl game for the first time since 1993.

Indiana is faced with a tough decision: support their embattled coach, fire him immediately, or fire him after the season. 

It looks like we will know the answer sooner than later. IU has scheduled a press conference for 5 PM EST.  This is not good news for Sampson, there wasn't one originally scheduled.


AD Rick Greenspan's press conference is wrapping up and it appears that no decision has been made on the future of Coach Sampson.

I will say that he has left the door of firing him wide open. 

Greenspan has shown the propensity to be patient in times of urgency, and that discretion is probably wise.  There are a lot of decisions to be made in this situation and you can't go around firing people until this situation is properly reviewed. 

He also made it clear that he couldn't fire him anyway, he only makes "recommendations" that are sent to University President McRobbie.

One note.  How unbelievable would it have been if Greenspan was doing his presser and all of a sudden the lights dim, the music starts, and out walks The General himself?  This would be the one (and only) case where real sports should be like wrestling.

Just a thought (to be clear, I do not think that hiring Knight would be a good idea).